Diné College students now eligible for New Mexico lottery scholarships

Diné College was recently notified it qualifies for New Mexico lottery scholarships. (Photo/Ed McCombs, Diné College)

Diné College was recently notified it qualifies for New Mexico lottery scholarships. (Photo/Ed McCombs, Diné College)

TSAILE, Ariz. — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) recently signed legislation that makes students attending Diné College eligible to receive lottery scholarships.

Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 407 last month. The bill goes into effect July 1, 2019 and pertains to students attending tribal colleges throughout New Mexico.

“We are pleased to notify you that students attending Diné College are now eligible to receive lottery scholarships,” Dr. Kate O’Neill, secretary of the New Mexico Higher Education Department, wrote in a letter to Diné College about the matter. “This change takes effect for academic year 2019-2020 as a result of the passage and signing of Senate Bill 407.”

O’Neill noted in the correspondence that the award amount would be set by the state Higher Education Department June 1 and be based on available revenue, student enrollment projections and the type of institution a student attends. Diné College students will receive a tuition scholarship at the same level as public 4-year comprehensive college students, O’Neill wrote.

“We applaud the passage of this bill because it provides additional opportunities for our qualifying students to earn a college degree,” said Diné College

President Monty Roessel. “A big focus for our college, especially at the Shiprock and Crownpoint sites, is the expansion of our agribusiness program and extension work for the northwest part of New Mexico. By making college more accessible, this scholarship is not just making a difference in the lives of students who qualify, but also in the economy of the Navajo Nation and state.”

Students would be eligible to receive $1,020 per semester or up to seven semesters until the student graduates with a bachelor’s degree. In order to qualify, a student must be classified as full-time and be a graduate of a public or accredited private high school in New Mexico and complete the first semester of college enrollment with at least a 2.5 grade point average. The student must enroll within 16 months from high school graduation.

The sponsors of SB 407

Among the sponsors of SB 407 were Sens. Benny Shendo (D-Jemez Pueblo) and John Pinto (D-Tohatchi). Shendo is a lawyer and an educational advocate and Pinto, 94, is a former Navajo Code Talker and the longest serving member of the New Mexico Senate in the history of the legislature.

Shendo represents McKinley, San Juan, Sandoval, Bernalillo and Rio Rancho counties. Pinto represents McKinley and San Juan counties. Both Shendo and Pinto are Democrats.

Besides Diné College (Crownpoint, Shiprock), the other tribal institutions in New Mexico are Navajo Technical University (Crownpoint), the Institute of American Indian Arts (Santa Fe) and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, which chose not to include itself in the lottery scholarship program since it falls under the operation of the Bureau of Indian Education.

Diné College — the first tribally-controlled place of higher learning in the U.S. — was the lead institution that lobbied the state legislature for the bill.

Information provided by Diné College

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